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What is Registered Nursing (RN)?
Registered Nursing (RN) is a degree program within nursing that has met the necessary requirements by a municipality, county, state, or licensure body to obtain a nursing license. Earning a degree in Registered Nursing (RN) is built on rigorous coursework to prepare students to become a knowledgeable, well-rounded nurse practitioners able to step into a variety of science, medical, research, and leadership roles. Finding success within Registered Nurse (RN) requires attention to detail, a strong sense of compassion, and strong analytic skills to resolve many issues that arise in a complex healthcare environment.
A Registered Nurse (RN) must delicately balance technical skills, organizational know-how, and academic excellence with a professional, approachable demeanor. A Registered Nurse (RN) graduate can work in a variety of settings public healthcare facilities to private healthcare facilities which can include ambulatory care clinics, hospitals, acute care facilities, home healthcare agencies, pharmaceutical companies, electronic medical records facilities, and durable medical equipment facilities. As you can see, the Registered Nurse (RN) profession fuses compassion, medical technology, science, and medicine into a fulfilling vocation.
Educational Requirements of a Registered Nurse
In terms of educational requirements, Registered Nurse (RN) degree holders will have typically studied the following courses while in college:
How Do You Become a Registered Nurse?
In order to become a Registered Nurse, you will need to successfully achieve a number of discrete goals. To help you better visualize the process, we have created a list below to guide you through these steps. The 6 things you need to do to become a Registered Nurse are:
- Select a College: The first step in the journey to become a Registered Nurse is to carefully select an accredited nursing program. In order to make the most of this step, we highly encourage every prospective college student and working professional to establish a personal priority list. A template of a priority list can be found on our Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process along with numerous tools and resources. Once you have obtained information from colleges regarding nursing programs, you will need to apply and gain acceptance before moving to step two.
- Matriculate then Graduate: In this piece of the process, you will be attending a college, university, or hospital and working towards your nursing degree online or on-site. Regardless of the type of RN program (Direct Entry RN, BSN, LPN to BSN) you will need to learn the intricacies of the nursing trade and excel in each class. At the end of your coursework in a RN program you will graduate from a state-approved, accredited nursing program and receive your degree or certificate of achievement.
- Test: The third step to becoming a registered nurse is to sit for a standardized test known as the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing as the gold standard for knowledge needed to succeed in the nursing profession. Once you have successfully passed the NCLEX and any required state-examinations, you will be eligible to apply for a license to practice nursing in your state of residence.
- License: Here you will need to understand your state’s specific requirements to apply for a nursing license. Some states have specific criteria that needs to be met in conjunction with your application, like completing a criminal background check, in order to obtain your state license as a registered nurse. To connect with your state’s nursing board, utilize the NCSBN’s directory here.
- Employment: Once you have your RN degree and requisite examinations in your rearview mirror, you can seek employment as a registered nurse. The employment demand for Registered Nurses continues to be robust, making this part of the process exciting for a recent graduate. In fact, the employment growth for an RN is more than twice the national average for all jobs in the United States for the coming decade adding nearly 500,000 new jobs for registered nurses during that time.
- Continuing Education: Many registered nurses elected to continue their education towards additional degrees and/or certifications after gaining proficiency as a Registered Nurse. Additional degrees may include a master’s degree (MSN, CNM, CRNA, CNP, CNS) or Doctorate Degree (DNP, DNS, PhD in Philosophy). Alternative options to an additional college degree for Registered Nurses may be a professional certification. Certifications take be earned in a variety of disciplines including critical care, nursing administration, nurse anesthetist, acute care, pediatric, oncology, and family nurse practitioner.
How Long Does It Take to Become an RN?
The length of time it takes you to become a registered nurse depends on the accredited program you take coupled with your course load. For the examples below, we will presume you will be attending full-time and if you elect to attend a nursing program part-time you would simply add time to the estimations accordingly. The length of time it will take you to become a Registered Nurse is also dependent on the degree program listed below:
- Associate Degree in Nursing: The associate degree programs for a prospective RN, known as an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), will provide you with entry-level job opportunities and will take two-years of full time matriculation.
- Bachelor Degree in Nursing: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will take 4 years to complete while a Direct Entry RN program is designed to take 3 years of full-time classes to complete.
- Master Degree in Nursing: The master’s degree can come in a variety of programs that include: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP), Certified Nurse Specialist (CNS), or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). These programs generally take students two years to complete.
What is Included in the NCLEX Exam?
The NCLEX or National Council Licensure Examination is a standardized test required for nursing professionals prior to applying for a license to practice. The NCLEX exam is comprised of 4 parts broken down in the following categories of needs:
- Physiology: Testing in this category is requisite to determine a base-level of knowledge in rudimentary patient care and comfort, including physiologic, pharmacological, and psychological.
- Safe Care Environment: This section of the test includes the proper management of the care environment emphasizing both infection control & safety.
- Psychosocial Adaption: The psychosocial integrity for a nurse includes elements of coping, psychosocial, and adaptation.
- Health Promotion: The promotion of positive development and growth for each patient includes intervention, quality of life, prevention, health maintenance, early detection of disease(s).
Online Registered Nursing Degree Programs
As the fastest growing segment of college degrees in the United States, online college degree programs or distance learning degrees continue to increase in popularity. Online registered nursing degrees are no exception to this rule. There are many online learning opportunities for nursing students that span the gambit. Degree options from accredited colleges and universities include:
- Online Nursing Certificate Programs (LVN, CNA, LPN)
- Online Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADN, ASN, AAS, AN)
- Online Bachelor Degrees in Nursing (BSN, BN, BScN, LPN to BSN, LVP to BSN, LPN to RN, RN to BSN, Accelerated BSN)
- Online Master Degrees in Nursing (MSN, BSN to MSN, LPN to MSN, LVN to MSN, RN to MSN)
Distance learning or online learning will often be structured for nursing students to study online and engage in clinical experiences at approved hospitals or medical facilities in the community. This hybrid learning approach allows bookwork and lectures to be consumed at your pace coupled with necessary hands-on learning to help academic knowledge meet pragmatic application.
It is important to note: if you already have earned a college degree as a Registered Nurse, you may qualify for programs other students do not have access to. Examples include the Accelerated BSN, Second Degree BSN, and RN to BSN programs where credits are provided to students for previous college degrees and/or life experience. Such online nursing programs help to further compress the time and money it takes to earn a degree in nursing compared to students without previous experience. These additional degrees can help expand your knowledge base and posture you for additional career opportunities within the nursing field. To learn more about online learning opportunities at accredited universities and colleges, simply visit our online college resource portal today.
Is Finding an Accredited Nursing Program Important?
Yes, aligning yourself with an accredited nursing program is highly important. First, accreditation is a means for you to know if a nursing program is regionally and/or nationally recognized and meets requisite nursing education standards. Accreditation is key for prospective nursing students for 3 primary reasons:
- Licensing – Attending an accredited, state nursing board approved college for nursing is required to become eligible for your license to practice nursing in your state of residence.
- Financial Aid – Accredited colleges and universities are your gateway to greater financial aid opportunities not found in schools without regional or national accreditation.
- Transferability – An accredited school is much more likely to accept transfer credits from another accredited school if you elect to pursue additional degrees or professional certifications in nursing online or in class.
Accreditation bodies are independent, third-parties that vet the quality of a college’s nursing program through a rigorous audit. These audits are not a one-and-done process as accreditation is earned perpetually. As such, schools need to apply for reaccreditation in 5, 7, or 10 year cycles to remain accredited. The two primary accrediting bodies in the nursing sector are the ACEN and CCNE.
Skills & Abilities Required for a Registered Nurse
- Critical Thinking
- Complex Problem Solving
- Reading Comprehension
- Active Listening
- Oral Expression
- Oral Comprehension
- Speech Recognition
- Written Comprehension
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Information & Specialization
For students that earn a college degree in Registered Nurse (RN), there are several fields of specialization that one can pursue. The options range from Department Director, Nurse Administrator, Quality Improvement Manager, Nurse Manager, Ambulatory Care Manager, Director of Nursing, dental hygienist, Registered Nurse (RN), post-secondary teacher, researcher, registered nurse, EMT, LPN, LVP, and physician assistant to name a few possible career tracks.
Highest Paying States for Registered Nurses
- California $101,750
- Massachusetts $89,060
- Hawaii $88,910
- Oregon $87,000
- Alaska $86,450
Top 10 Highest Paying Cities for Registered Nurses
- San Francisco, CA $136,610
- Santa Cruz, CA $124,920
- Vallejo, CA $124,380
- San Jose, CA $120,680
- Salinas, CA $120,120
- Oakland, CA $117,880
- San Rafael, CA $117,550
- Sacramento, CA $113,440
- Napa, CA $109,460
- Modesto, CA $108,780
Top Employers of Registered Nurses
- Medical and Surgical Hospitals 1,649,480
- Physicians’ Offices 196,540
- Home Health Care Providers 179,280
- Nursing Care Facilities 157,530
- Outpatient Care Centers 128,180
States with Highest Employment of Registered Nurses
- California 274,650
- Texas 207,810
- New York 180,730
- Florida 174,710
- Pennsylvania 139,480
Job Growth, Salary, and Related Fields
The job growth in the greater Registered Nurse (RN) domain are well above average. For example, the rate of job growth for a Registered Nurse is expected to rise 16% through 2024 and Nursing Science a brisk 17% growth rate is expected during the same period. Given the nature of the Registered Nurse (RN) degree, compensation after graduation can vary greatly from career field to career field given prior experience and geographic location. Related fields include teaching, research, genomics, immunology, radiobiology, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, nursing, medical science, and microbiology.